How To Quit Your Job Gracefully

  • 4 min read

There’s no shortage of advice on how to find the right job, but people seldom speak about how to quit a job.

Here’s the thing. People only remember your last impression when you decide to move on from your current company.

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We’ve all been there. The time comes when we decide we have to leave our jobs for new challenges, new opportunities, or we’re simply unhappy.

You can come to the conclusion that the skills that you’ve been hired to use for this job aren’t a fit for what you’re good at or enjoy.

You believe deep down that you’re meant for better, bigger, and more thrilling things.

Maybe you even think that your boss is narcissistic.

Your reasons for leaving don’t really matter. You’re leaving.

Now the only thing you have to ask yourself is “how do you want to be remembered?”

Now that I’m on the other side of hiring (and at times firing) employees I can promise you that how you quit a job is more important than how you started. Your last impression will most likely have implications for your future.

When thinking about how to quit a job you should remember that finishing strong is critical.

The people you work with now are people who you may encounter again one day and you can use this opportunity to leave them with a great impression.

7 dos and don’ts on how to quit a job

Here’s what to do—and not to do—when making your exit.

1. DO tell your boss first

Once you’ve decided to resign, the first person you should tell is your boss. The reason is obvious: you don’t want your boss to hear the news from anyone else. Even if you don’t see eye to eye, telling him or her first is the professional thing to do. (By the way when I use the word “boss” I don’t just mean your “director report” but the one that signs your checks).

2. DON’T share the news too soon

One of the biggest mistakes people make is putting the cart before the horse and talking up your new job before it’s appropriate. Announcing your resignation to coworkers before you notify your boss is bad form. People will remember your departure. Do the right thing and give your boss the courtesy to plan how to communicate the news to the rest of the team.

3. DON’T gossip

There are no secrets and no off-the-record conversations in the workplace. If you give different reasons for your departure to different groups — if your boss hears one story, for example, while your close colleagues hear another — expect that you’ll be Topic A at the water cooler. Learn the essential lesson of being a politician: There is only one story, told one way, and you stick to it. That way nobody can ever say they heard anything different.

4. DO give your employer ample notice

Leaving an organization with anything less than two weeks’ notice is simply “bad form.” Yet too often notice periods are treated as a necessary inconvenience after resigning. The natural instinct is to take your foot off the gas: serve time, say your goodbyes, and exit in a blaze of a farewell bash. Your attitude to your work should be no different to its usual high standards right up to the moment you walk out the door for the final time.

5. DO be strategic about your time

Regardless of your reasons for quitting, you have one final responsibility to your company — and that is to engender an orderly, positive transition. Your only orientation [during your notice period] is to make sure you don’t leave your boss in a pickle. To that end, you need to collaborate with your boss. Ask your manager for direction and close supervision on how you ought to tie up loose ends. Sit with your managers and project teams to bring them up to speed. After you leave, you want your former boss and colleagues to feel nothing but positive about your professionalism.

6. DON’T bad-mouth the company, your boss, or your coworkers

You never want to burn bridges. The business world is smaller than you think, and you never know when you’ll end up working with or for one of these people again.

7. DO say ‘goodbye’

Some people don’t want to make their departure a big deal. Others want to get the heck out of there as quickly as possible. Whatever the case, it’s rude and unprofessional to not say goodbye.

The adage “all’s well that ends well” has a modicum of truth here. You want to smooth over any hard feelings when you leave by being gracious and diplomatic.

For one thing, it’s the right thing to do.

But also, the business world can often be just two degrees of separation. You never know who in your office could reappear in your life, as a client, key contact, or even a boss.

The most important rule to keep in mind when thinking about how to quit a job is that last impressions are virtually on par, if not more important, than your first impressions. Maintaining your reputation should be a priority even on your way out. 

Ron Gibori is a nationally recognized entrepreneur and award-winning creative director at Idea Booth–a creative think tank. His work with mtvU on the “Half of Us” pro-social campaign received several Emmy nominations and won a Peabody Award. Ron frequently writes about entrepreneurship, leadership, creativity, and innovation.

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  • Originally published January 2, 2019, updated June 27, 2024